Abuse of Power in New Jersey Casts a Shadow Over Governor Christie There is nothing worse then getting stuck in traffic on the George Washington Bridge- except when it’s the first day of school and you are stuck there for hours on end. The Fort Lee lane closure scandal, also known as Bridgegate, occurred between Sept. 9 and 12, 2013, when two toll lanes for the entryway were closed to local traffic from Fort Lee and neighboring areas. The lanes were used instead for traffic from state and interstate expressways, before the morning rush hour. This resulted in major backups in the city of Fort Lee. The orders were handed down directly by David Wildenstein and Bill Baroni, both of whom told the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee that the closures had been for a traffic study. Safety issues aside, the reason this has become such a huge scandal is because no one can seem to figure out if Gov. Christie knew about it or not. Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Anne Kelley, who was eventually fired, had emailed Wildenstein saying that it was time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee. The motive behind this email and the lane closures is purportedly political retribution against Christie’s political opponents, specifically, Fort Lee Mayor, Mark Sokolich, who did not support Christie in the 2013 New Jersey gubernatorial election. Various internal communications including emails and text messages use ethnic slurs when referring to the Mayor, who is Croatian-American. On Sept. 13, Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority ordered the lanes re-opened in a strongly worded email to Senior Port Authority staff, saying that the closure was not only a policy violation, but it also violated Federal law and the laws of both New York and New Jersey.
According to The New York Daily News, Gov. Christie said, “‘The most important issue is, did I know anything about the plan to close these lanes, did I authorize it, did I know about it, did I approve it, did I have any knowledge of it before-
hand. And the answer is still the same: It’s unequivocally no.” He continues by keeping with his original statement that he was told that the Port Authority was engaged in a traffic study. Pages and pages of communications and internal documents are still being turned over and combed through, and despite some evidence that Christie may have been privy to Bridegate, he categorically denies it. Only time will tell.
Unfortunately, this was not the only scandal to rock the state of New Jersey and its Governor. In another major abuse of power, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, claimed that Gov. Christie withheld Hurricane Sandy relief funds in an attempt to persuade her to approve a development plan that clearly favored one property developer. According to The Huffington Post, Gov. Christie is also “facing a federal probe into whether he misused federal relief funds after Hurricane Sandy.” The investigation is looking into whether or not Gov. Christie misappropriated $25 million of Sandy relief money to boost tourism with ads starring he and his family after the horrific storm devastated coastal New Jersey. According to CNN, “Christie's office said the ‘Stronger than the Storm’ campaign was part of an ‘action plan’ approved by the Obama administration and developed with the goal of showing that the New Jersey shore was open for business just several months after the storm.” Gov. Christie is still being investigated in all three incidents, and though he may be able to point the finger of blame at others, his name will be forever tarnished. If nothing else, the scandal has diminished his chances of being chosen to run for president as the Republican candidate in the next federal election cycle come 2016.